HON. Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni is one of the newly elected members of Lagos House of Assembly gunning for the Speakership. He was a member of the 4th legislative session at the Assembly between 1999 and 2003. He was the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Tinubu on Legislative and Political Matters between 2003 and 2007.
He was elected Chairman of Lagos Island Local Government Council twice in 2008 and 2011. He was the first state secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State in 2014 before resigning his appointment to contest for his old seat (Lagos Island Constituency 1) and he won.
He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview why he is contesting for the Speakership of the State.
How did you feel winning the House of Assembly election once more?
I feel elated. It is significant in the sense that Lagos Island did very well. In terms of percentage, we were the best local government in the whole of the state. Also, the margin of my victory was about 70 per cent of the total votes cast. We were the best local government in terms of performance in the elections.
What would you say was responsible for your victory?
It is because I am in tune with the aspiration of my people. The people came out to cast their votes for us because they appreciated what we did when I was the chairman of the (Lagos Island) local government council.
We gathered that there was protest votes against you by the supporters of the aspirant you defeated on the primary election. How far is this true?
That was more than compensated for by the people who voted for us. For example, during the presidential election of March 28, 2015, in my ward, we won by 500 votes. During the House of Assembly election of April 11, 2015, we won by almost 1,000 votes. This was despite the fact that the PDP candidate is also from the same ward. He is even the son of a white cap chief. I defeated him by 17,000 votes.
How come the Easterners in Lagos Island did not vote against you as they did against many APC candidates in the state?
Because their children and wards benefitted from our educational programme in the local government. In the history of Lagos State, we were the first local government council to give each pupil in all the primary schools in our local government area free school uniforms, school sandals, bags, exercise books and text books.
In fact, we were the only local government council doing such in the whole of Nigeria. We started in 2008/2009 session and we did it consecutively for seven sessions. For secondary school students in our local government council area, we gave them 12 higher education notebooks and mathematical sets. We also bought JAMB forms, GCE forms for them apart from organizing remedial classes for them. We did not discriminate against anybody as long as you are a bonafide resident of the local government area and your children are in those primary and secondary schools. Certainly, those who their children benefitted from such programmes will vote for us. So, it was not a surprise that the people came out en masse and voted for us.
Some people are saying that because you still have a case in the Appeal Court brought by your opponents in the primary election, you should not celebrate your victory yet. How far is this true?
Thank God there was a judgement on March 6, 2015 and up till I speak to you now there has not been an injunction. He wanted to pursue a stay of execution at the High Court, we responded and they abandoned it. He has gone to appeal to move so many motions, all of them were thrown out on April 29, 2015. They said if he wants an appeal he should come back. I don’t have any case in court. I won my case. He was the one that appealed. He is the one that should prove to the court why I should not celebrate my victory.
Even most members that are contesting for speakership themselves have cases at the Election Petition Tribunal now. Almost all of them.
Aren’t you interested in being the Speaker yourself?
Of course, I am interested but I am not pursuing it as a do or die affair. The truth of the matter is that during the preparation for these elections, the leadership of the party came to Acme (party headquarters) that every position would be zoned. That the governorship has been zoned to Epe in Lagos East (senatorial district) and the deputy governorship and the Speakership would be zoned too. Since deputy governorship has gone to the West (senatorial district), it is, therefore, natural for people of Lagos Central (senatorial district) to assume that the Speaker will come from their district.
Again, let us look at this situation. The Lagos East (senatorial district) which currently has the governorship had the Speakership for 16 years. Mamora (Kosofe LG), Pelumi from Epe LG and now Rt. Hon. Ikuforiji from the same Epe LG. That is 16 years in Lagos East (senatorial district). So, if anybody comes from there (Lagos East) we wish him or her good luck.
Let us look at Lagos West (senatorial district). Aside the fact that it has produced the deputy governor, the chairman of the party, the deputy chairman of the party, the National Legal Officer, the South West Woman Leader, the National Youth Leader for South West of the party are all from Lagos West too. What has Lagos Central taken in this dispensation. Again, let us wait and see what the party leaders will do.
What is the agitation of Lagos West all about? This is a senatorial district that lost five local government areas during the last elections. They lost most during the presidential and National Assembly elections. Again, they lost the highest number of seats during the House of Assembly elections. Are they now saying the leadership of the party should reward them with the seat of the Speaker, for their poor performance during the elections? What about the senatorial district that did not lose any seat during the National and Assembly elections? What should the party leadership do to compensate them for voting massively for the party? If the other two senatorial districts lost some of their seats too like the Lagos West, I am sure there wouldn’t be any positions to jostle for.
There is also this argument that your coming back to the House of Assembly now will be considered as new because there is 12 years difference since the last time you were in the Assembly as a member?
When you came into the House does not matter. The most important thing is for you to come into the House. That is what is called ranking. They should show it from their rules if there is anything different from this. Aside this, I was the liaison officer of the House of Assembly up to 2007. I was Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Governor Tinubu on Political and Legislative Matters. My brief then was to liaise between the Assembly and the governor between 2003 and 2007.
They have also talked about experience and I asked what their definition of experience is? Is it being a legislator for 25 or 50 years or being versatile in all facets of governance? Only 20 per cent of a speaker’s job deals with legislative matters. The remaining 80 per cent is about administration.
My first eight years since the beginning of this democratic dispensation (1999) was on legislative matters, either as a member of the Assembly or as the liaison officer.
I have also had another eight years of administrative experience under my belt with unblemished record either as SSA for two years and Chairman of Lagos Island Local Government for six years. I was voted the Best Chairman on three occasions. Even in the area of sports, we won the Lagos State Sports Festival, the last time it was held. Before then, we were third. So, we’ve shown competence all over.
I have also earned my respect within the party. I was the Vice Chairman of the party in my ward in 1990. I was there during NADECO. Our becoming members of the House of Assembly in 1999 was as a result of our loyalty and commitment to the party and the course of democracy.
Of recent, I was the state party secretary. Who among the aspirants for the Speakership has achieved such leverage in the party? When you talk of experience, either legislative or administrative, I have seen it all.
Also the argument about some of us not having the experience to hold the Speakership position does not hold water at all. What experience did Rt. Hon. Jokotola Pelumi has in 2003 when Asiwaju Tinubu went to Epe during campaign and raised his hand that people of Epe should vote for him because he was going to be the next Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly? And he eventually became the Speaker despite being a new member.
The incumbent Speaker, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji became Speaker just after two years in the Assembly. When he (Ikuforiji) became the Speaker there were old members who had been in the Assembly for six years. People didn’t argue against his choice because the position was zoned to Epe. None of the old members contested against him. He who come to equity must come with clean hands.
In this instance, nobody can deny the fact that I was in the House before 99 per cent of the old members of the House now. I was also the liaison officer between Governor Tinubu and the House. I discharged my duty creditably and they applauded me up to 2007. How then will they say somebody who had eight years of legislative experience is not experienced enough to be a Speaker? Like I said, speakership is not about legislative job alone. There are other jobs that the Speaker performs such as building consensus and administrative job.
Without being immodest, I have administrative experience more than all of them. Aside this, I have credible academic qualifications too. I had distinction in my primary school leaving certificate. I had Grade One in my WASC result. I had 3.69 points in my Masters at University of Lagos Department of Jurisprudence, where I had my Masters in International Law and Diplomacy. I have also been to Harvard Law School, where I was given a certificate in leadership and negotiation. I have had the honour and privilege of attending plenary session of US Congress. The programme was sponsored by the US Government. We were five on that trip. The others were Senator Mamora, Senator Jide Omoworare and Dr. Wale Ahmed.
We went to nine states in United States of America understudying and doing a comparative analysis of their legislature and ours. I have a certificate to show for these experiences.
I have also been trained by the British Council. I did three-week training at Advanced Legal Study Department of Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. The training was organized by the current Vice President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. So, I have good academic qualification and enough training which nobody can just wish away anyhow.
There is also the impression that most of the old members in the Assembly now are new to you because none of your colleagues of 1999-2003 session is still in the Assembly.
That is not true because all of them must have met me in the party when I was the secretary. Most of them have interacted with me when I was the Chairman of Lagos Island (LG) and I came to defend spending in PAC (Public Account Committee). Anyone that claims he does not know Wasiu Sanni is probably not of APC. Who have I not had relationship with? Is it Pepper (Hon. Bayo Osinowo), Obasa, Funmi (Tejuosho), Abiru? They all know me by name and they know who I am. They are not new to me and I am not new to them. The advantage that I have now is that I know them and I also know the new members.
How do you know the new members?
I have been interacting with them by virtue of the fact that we were all newly elected into the House of Assembly. I have interaction with them. These are the people I am coming into the House with.
Did you also interact with the opposition members?
I have had personal interactions with all of them. One or two of them are my cousins.
The PDP members?
Yes, they are my cousins. We are from the same Eshinlokun family. Even among the old members, I can tell you for free that Olulade (from Epe) is an Eshinlokun. What are you talking about?
– TOLANI ABATTI